By Aaron Kesel
Google is facing an antitrust violation investigation into its practices of its search and Android software in 48 states, Puerto Rico and Washington DC by their respective attorneys general, CNBC reported.
The states investigating Google are preparing to expand their antitrust probe beyond the company’s advertising business to its search and Android businesses.
The attorneys general will write up subpoenas known as civil investigative demands, or CIDs, to support the ongoing investigation into Google's practices. According to CNBC, "states will carry out the investigations of search and Android separately, the people said. It wasn’t clear which states would look at those businesses, however."
The only holdout states are the attorney general of Alabama, where Google is building a US$600 million data center, and California, where Google has its headquarters.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading the probe into Google's activities. The probe was announced during a September news conference. Google’s senior vice president of global affairs, Kent Walker, wrote a blog post shortly after the investigation was announced that said the company will cooperate with government investigations.
"There is nothing wrong with a business becoming the biggest game in town if it does so through free market competition, but we have seen evidence that Google's business practices may have undermined consumer choice, stifled innovation, violated users' privacy, and put Google in control of the flow and dissemination of online information," Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said.
Google recently received its third antitrust violation fine from the European Union when Google was asked to pay €1.5 billion for its controversial business practices stifling competition earlier this year. Google has been fined €8.2 billion ($9.3 billion) by the EU over the last three years combined, according to The Verge.
Google was fined a record €4.3 billion last year for abusing its mobile market, and €2.4 billion the year before that for manipulating shopping search results. Google is currently appealing both cases and has in recent weeks gained support from two mobile phone makers, Gigaset and HMD Global Oy. Court proceedings are expected to start next year. The case is T-604/18 Google vs European Commission, Reuters reported.
The big tech giant has also faced antitrust probes in the U.S. in the past as well, but thus far there hasn't been a fine handed out. In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) opened an investigation into Google's abuse of its dominance of Internet search and advertising to stifle competition.
One of those FTC complaints was filed by the founder of Presearch, Colin Pape, for another company he owns called ShopCity. The complaint with the Federal Trade Commission accused Google of rigging its search results to make it hard for consumers to find the ShopCity commerce websites.
Anyone with a quote like this who stands up against big tech has my full support! Colin gets it, information is sacred and needs to be protected against Alphabet.
“Tell the guy who’s had his business eradicated by an unintended consequence it’s not evil,” Colin Pape said of Google's former slogan.
“While Google is generally thought of as a neutral entity for search, the company answers to Wall Street and operates very secretively,” said Colin Pape, who founded Presearch and previously launched community commerce platform ShopCity.com. “They’ve become known for promoting themselves at the expense of alternatives and appropriating others’ information, blaming it on ‘the algorithm.’ The reality is that they manipulate results and justify changes as being best for the user. With Presearch, I wanted to flip that business model on its head and put power over information back into the hands of all internet users.”
One year later in 2012, a leaked internal FTC report stated Google engaged in "anticompetitive behavior to maintain the dominance of its search engine," investigators at the Federal Trade Commission wrote in a private report obtained by the Wall Street Journal. The document recommended litigation and called Google a monopoly.
FTC staffers concluded that Google's "conduct has resulted – and will result – in real harm to consumers and to innovation" in the online search market and the search giant's actions resulted in "significant harm" to its rivals, Business Insider reported.
According to the 160-page report written by FTC staffers, the employees found evidence that Google was demoting its competitors and placing its own services on top of search results lists -- exactly like Pape described in his complaint alleging that his ShopCity business was being buried in Google’s search results.
Google agreed in 2013 to change some of its business practices to resolve Federal Trade Commission concerns according to a document on the FTC's website.
Then in 2015, the Federal Trade Commission opened a preliminary investigation into whether Google used its Android operating system to dominate its competitors, Reuters reported.
Two years later, Google faced another $8 million fine, this time from Russian regulators and was forced to open its Android mobiles to competing search engines in a yet another antitrust settlement.
"It's now nearly impossible for any user to disentangle from Google, or for smaller competitors to make a dent in many industries," Pape told this writer.
"Google has upped the ante since [the 2013 settlement], and bundled their products even tighter: They have the No. 1 browser, the No. 1 email, No. 1 mapping ... there are just so many integral products and so many opportunities for them to control the flow of information," added Pape.
Google is also reportedly facing an antitrust probe from the U.S. Department of Justice. Although not many details are known about that investigation.
The states and DOJ probes into antitrust violations comes as Google is looking to expand its business tentacles into the healthcare and finance banking industries with Project Nightingale and Project Cache. It is a worrying prospect for one company to have a monopoly on all of that personal data.
A study in 2012 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that while Americans like being able to use a search engine, they don't like search engines tracking their search history and using it to tailor content and online ads to them.
Activist Post Recommended Book: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
The statistics found that although 91 percent of those who use search engines find what they're looking for, 73 percent consider it an invasion of privacy when such sites collect information about them and their search history.
According to that poll, sixty-eight percent of Internet users said they don't like target advertising or having their online behavior tracked and analyzed.
A bipartisan effort by law makers including presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren have consistently expressed that "it's time to break up big tech companies" like Google while more and more leaks have come out showing the true colors of the company in recent years like Project Nightingale, Project Cache, Project Dragonfly and The Selfish Ledger as Activist Post has reported.
In fact, so many leaks have come out of Google that CNBC reports:
"Google will no longer hold weekly all-hands meetings amid growing workplace tensions."
This is awesome news for competitors like Presearch who are seeking to take away Google’s monopolized dominance on search by giving back to their users and allowing users more control over their own data. The ultimate goal of completely decentralizing search will allow an unbiased search engine that just works, and rewards you as a Presearch Community member for using it in PRE cryptocurrency.
Maybe in the future we will see a Presearch Android app that is pre-loaded on some manufacturers’ cell phones after this latest ruling. It is certainly not out of the realm of possibility since Presearch was given the incredible award by Nasdaq as a top cryptocurrency to “bet the house on” for 2018.
As former Senate antitrust subcommittee Chairman Michael S. Lee of Utah said Google "dodged a bullet" in the FTC's former antitrust violation, but this time it faces 50 attorneys general, a DOJ probe, and a possible FTC probe. However, a recent denial by Joseph Simons, the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, to withhold from Congress the 2012 staff report may indicate otherwise. Simons said the document is exempt from public disclosure and as a result, "we are not able to honor your request."
The remaining question is, doesn't Simons realize the document was leaked in 2015 all over the internet on various publications including the Wall St Journal? Absolutely anyone can go and read the document and recommendations for litigation against Google which FTC staffers referred to as a "monopoly."
After years of privacy violations, abuse, and broken promises after each new scandal, it will seem refreshing to not use the term “Google it,” instead, soon users could be saying “Presearch it.” And that has a nice ring to it…
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